The Next Best Thing To Sliced Bead

The next best thing to sliced bread is not, as the advertisers would have you believe, a new electronic gadget or app. It is not an item of clothing or a kitchen appliance. It is cheese and pickle.

Thus another popular saying ( here in Australia ) goes for a Burton. North American readers can also go for a Burton but they’ll have to hunt out an English pub or beer shop to do it. Elizabeth Taylor went for a Burton…

Do you think that popular sayings and buzz-phrases are getting to be clichéd? You’re not wrong, Narelle. And we are being bombarded with more of them every day, thanks to the very screen you are looking at. They can become a burden after a while and we long for good old-fashioned communication like you got before the War. When men were men and women were women and the ABC announcers dressed up in suits and ties to read scripts over a radio microphone.

I think it is time to take back this level of earnestness and style. To re-assert the right of everyone to be elegant. Therefore:

a. Henceforth this column will be written while fully  the author is fully dressed. No more old green bathrobe and slippers. No more typing while wearing nothing but a wet towel. Or less.

b. No more buzz phrases – or at least none that are currently in use on Facetwit or that other slightly profane site; Instadamn.

c. All words will be correctly spelled and supplied in correct grammatical form. And the correct spelling may not be what the biased Spell Checker at the top of the WordPress menu would have it. I have been watching this suspect program and seen several howlers pass its scrutiny. It may be time to finally decide whether British English or American English is to prevail…though the Canadian compromise might be adopted for the sake of convenience. Whichever one is chosen, there will be protests from the grammatically arrogant.

d. Colourful local words and phrases like ” Crikey ” and ” Stone the crows ” will be permitted but must be put in the mouths of colourful locals. Direct quotes only, preferably from a scaffold.

e. I have no objection to foreign words creeping in as long as they then creep out again.

f. No-one would expect to have a brain surgeon or waist gunner perform their special tasks while eating a Subway  tuna-fish sandwich. Likewise the readers do not want their literature bedaubed with taco sauce or biscuit crumbs. Henceforth the desk will be cleared of plates while the column is being typed. This will have the added benefit of not requiring a new keyboard after Spaghetti Night.

g. I shall occasionally introduce a new word or phrase to cover a particular point of communication and then repeat it enough times over different platfoms to set it in the public mind. Most of this will be done in a spirit of jollity and kindness, with the appropriate amount of savagery. This process of forcing language upon the unwilling shall be known as motting the rubes.

I do not expect them to be grateful, but I shall be satisfied when they start doing it to each other.

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Bear Baiting For The Faint Of Heart

The trick is to find something to bait other than a bear.

In any intimate social circle of friends there will be people who can be attacked with impunity. We all know a mass murderer or sex offender or someone who wears socks with sandals. They are the legitimate targets of our hate, righteousness, and scorn when we are feeling out of sorts.

We can pillory them to our heart’s content on the internet with no danger of reprisal. But then so can everyone else, and that means that we just blend in with the braying crowd – no-one will know how virtuous and cool we are. Easy targets get no gongs, as they say in the Air Force. They may get more than their fair share of 1000 pounders, but that is no consolation when we want personal publicity. We need worthy enemies that can be vanquished easily while the light is good and the cameras are rolling.

Trouble is,  worthy enemies – again to use the Air Force analogy – are armed with flak and fighters, and are not easy targets. If you get a whipping while you are trying to do that to someone else you are not going to benefit. So what we need are targets that appear tough but are made of rubber or straw.

In the social scene these can be found amongst the rich and entitled or poor and defenseless – provided they are far enough above or below our own social standing as to render us invisible. If we can be mean from behind a double-blind of false identity it is even better. This may be the real benefit of identity theft.

Of course things can change in time. The Nigerian scammer of last decade may well become the new government of this one. Likewise the politician we all vie to hate may be proven right. We must make some provision to retract our statements, or at least to retract our signature on the libels. For this purpose we advocate the good old disappearing ink beloved of spy novels.

The safest way of all – at least on WordPress or Blogger – is to include free-form poetry or advice on how to make money from home in each post. What is never read cannot be sheeted home to you in court…

 

 

SIn For The Sinless – On Being An Armour-Piercing Saint

If you are pretty well free of sin and error – like Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, or the Pope – you may feel that going to confession is a bit of a waste of time. Oh you might scrape up something like inattentiveness or the vague desire to take a third tea-cake, but you’ll be scrapping to interest the confessor on the other side of the grill. If you irk them they’ll just tell you to go and get blessed…

None of us are that good, but still, many of us have never set fire to an orphanage or touched a supporter of the Democratic Party in an inappropriate manner…and thus we struggle to make a meaningful confession or profession. We hesitate to attend. The BGA business model will change that.

We welcome news of sin and malignancy, but in the BGA booth you need not tell your own. You are free…and indeed encouraged…to tell that of others. The wider your vision of the faults of humanity can range and the more accurate and detailed your information can be, the quicker you can get out of the booth and the higher your standing with the Guild will be. To put it frankly, if you can bring us the goods, you need not pay the gold coin. In some cases it can be quite the opposite…

We all know people who do the right thing by others. Let us forget them for the present. Now concentrate on your friends and relations who really DO have something to hide – tell us all about them. We’ll even allow you a little leeway in the matter of strict truth if the story is juicy enough.

If there is one thing we have learned from the internet and social media, it is the elasticity of truth…

Of course we are prepared to grant you absolution, insofar as it is in our power to do so. Which is pretty well not at all. But the great thing is that you will have been enabled to traduce, calumniate, denigrate, and defame those of whom you disapprove from the safety of an anonymous structure in a public place. And with no consequences – save the occasional beating with a suggested post.

As we said – if there is one thing we have learned from the internet and social media, it is that we have learned two things…

 

” Now Hear This ” – The BGA Cures The Ills Of The World

Well, we’ve got the BGA booths into the train stations, malls, hospital waiting rooms, and fish and chip shops – now what is going to happen?

People will line up to enter the booth – their gold coin in hand for when they want to get out again. They’ll enter the darkness, snuggle up to the speaking tube, and start to tell the world what they want the world to know.

Part of it will be confession – the murders, robberies, and lustful thoughts of the week. Part will be profession – who they hate – Donald Trump, the brother-in-law, etc. Some will take the opportunity to brag about the size of their private parts, and some will tell the truth – in neither case will anyone out in the waiting line believe a word of what they say.

The trained counsellor will interject with helpful things like ” My, my.” and ” Well, I’ll be darned, eh? ” or just sit there making soothing noises as the professor gets more agitated. If they are asked to forgive the professor they will do so immediately, knowing that everyone else in the surrounding area that has heard the news will be ready with cudgels and handcuffs as soon as the curtain slides back. No sense being judgemental when you don’t have to be.

There will be no penances awarded – people can leave the booth feeling cleansed and free. Of course they may then be collared by the police or attacked by an enraged mob, but that is no business of the BGA. We will only step in when someone admits to a fiscal sin that has resulted in the accumulation of a large amount of ill-gotten gain in a Swiss bank account. The only thing we need is the special number and then you will be free to go.

The effect of this open-ended opportunity to get it off your chest will be to free up the psyche of individuals and let them get on with their lives. Of course, some of the less cautious ones may be devoting a great deal of those lives to running and hiding, but then they would have been brought to that eventually. We give them a clean chance on the starting blocks.

But what if you do not have any sins? Or any money, for that matter – is the BGA booth going to be any use to you? You bet it is – and you’ll read about that in our final chapter tomorrow.

The Backstabbers Guild Of Australia – A Guide To Salvation Through Publicity

We mentioned the Catholic confessional yesterday but forgot to say that it is considered to be a sacrosanct thing. The admissions that people make in there are generally supposed not to be blabbed about by the priests. This has lead to a number of melodramatic Hollywood movies and even more melodramatic government enquiries and media reports all over the world. And that has given the BGA an idea.

We are going to introduce a variation upon the institution of the confessional but with a few operational differences:

a. The BGA version will be available in more places – not confined to the premises of a church or cathedral. BGA booths will be set up in railway stations, shopping malls, and sports arenas. In country towns they will be attached to the pub or the petrol station. The Guild has a long-term aim to make sure that no Australian is more than 500 metres from a BGA booth wherever they live in the country.

b. BGA booths will be manned by a trained counsellor, though in some cases the training that they have received may be in naval gunnery, bartending, or double-entry book keeping. In any case they will be people who are prepared to sit there and listen. They will be paid, of course.

c. The booths will be properly curtained, with a darkened interior and a grillwork between the impenitent and the professor – we’ve learned that much psychology from the church. People will only start talking when they feel safe. Or when they are full of sodium pentothal. Curtains are cheaper than hypodermics.

d. The booths will have an internal sound tube and megaphone attached so that the sounds created inside are amplified and sent out over the surrounding area. We were contemplating a modern microphone/amplifier/speaker system but the technical experts pointed out that the power requirements and maintenance would make this impractical – certainly if we are to have a large network.  And the costs involved would push the project well over budget.

e. There will be no time limits set upon the BGA booths – neither frequency of attendance nor time inside speaking into the tube. There will be a hook provided in the counsellor’s tool kit to allow them to remove people who are just in there sleeping or making a nuisance of themselves. In really troublesome areas no seating will be provided apart from a central spike.

f. Most of the BGA booths will have a charity box attached to them. It will swing in on a steel hinge once the curtain is pulled across and will not swing back out of the way until a gold coin is dropped into the slot. There are fishooks set in the slot of the box to make sure that voluntary contributions go in and not out.

But enough of the mechanics of the booths. Read tomorrow to see how the BGA professional will help the people.

 

” This Is A Courtesy Call…”

I was standing in a store when my pocket phone rang.

” Hello, this is Bankwest. Am I talking to Richard? ”

My name is Richard and I agreed that the young woman was indeed talking to me. She asked me whether I would be prepared to identify myself in the store. That’s a rather unusual thing to say…and she was just a voice on a pocket phone…

She said it was just a courtesy call. I asked whether there was something amiss with my bank accounts. She declined to say, but asked me to call at a Bankwest branch, where she would send details of the call.

You want to panic? Try panicking about your bank accounts. I’ve been hacked through Mastercard before and I realise that it is well to jump on these things as soon as they are flagged. I said I would go to my normal local branch immediately…and took off in the car.

The official at the bank took my security passwords and we agreed that I was me and he was him; then we looked at the accounts. All was well…there was no need to  panic…whatever courtesy was intended in the original telephone call was probably some form of marketing idea that they compel junior staff to do…

Note for the future: I would readily identify myself to a recognisable police officer, local or AFP. I would do so to a recognisable magistrate or judge. I would identify myself to a recognisable Australian Defence Forces officer or warrant officer, if we were on Commonwealth property at the time. Other than that, my identity and any proof thereof, will be my own business.

Careful, BW. Your girl was indeed courteous, if a little mysterious, and your branch staff member was helpful, but there is a limit to what you should do in the marketing snoop line.

The Grocery Store Scandal – Who Is Bruising The Fruit…?

We’re undergoing a fruit-tampering scandal in Australia at present. Fresh strawberries in punnets have been found to be contaminated with sewing needles and pins – first in Queensland and now in South Australia and Western Australia. It raises interesting questions and speculation:

a. To start with, I have no idea who is behind it – no evidence, no experience of the problem, no fruit ( aside from a couple of soggy bananas ) in the house. All I know, like Will Rogers, is what I read in the newspapers.

b. Is it a racket? Was the original case the result of some mob going to a Queensland fruit grower and threatening contamination in a protection or blackmail racket? No pay, and the threat carried out?

c. Are the further cases copycat instances of people contaminating fruit in local stores?

d. Is there a network of fruit-contaminators at work throughout the distribution chain? Is there a central nub of crime at work here for some monetary purpose?

e. Is there some terrorist organisation that wants to spread fear with sewing needles? What possible connection could anyone make with politics or religion and strawberries?

f. Was the initial contamination a personal vendetta against a grower that has become a fashionable thing to emulate?

These are all questions that have undoubtedly passed through the official police offices. They are certainly competent to analyse this sort of thing. But they may not be able to articulate other questions out loud…

g. Who benefits if the strawberry growing industry in Australia is reduced? Other suppliers? In other countries?

h. Which other countries? Countries that supply fresh berries…or canned berries…to the supermarkets. Look on the can of berries in the tinned fruit section and see where they come from. Is this significant?

i. If people are put off berries, to what product will they turn? Who grows that product here in Australia? Do they have any connection to the strawberry suppliers? Or to the workers who deal with the strawberries through the production process?

j. Most important question – and one most difficult to get a real answer for…

Who will demand money to make the problem go away? Who will they demand it from? How is it to be paid?

These questions are nothing but the product of years of watching television drama, but that doesn’t stop them from being relevant.